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« | September 2006

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September 23 2006

Bruno Fernandes: High quality covers attached to your music

With the release of iTunes 7 Apple has introduced a feature that allows the downloading of decent quality artwork for any of your self-imported music (music you didn't buy from the iTunes Store). But I've seen a number of people complaining lately that when you download covers they are only cached and stored in a proprietary format. This means that if you copy/move some music the artwork will not be attached to the song. In other words it's not part of the ID3 tags of the MP3 file. This doesn't affect loading music onto an iPod however.

Here's an easy way to get the artwork into your song files (it's so simple I'm surprised I haven't seen anyone mention this yet). This assumes you don't already have the option for automatic artwork downloading selected (if you do, you can skip the second step):

  1. Select one track that belongs to the album whose cover you want to get
  2. From the Advanced menu, pick Download Album Artwork
  3. Make sure you're displaying art (bottom left) for the selected item (cmd-G)
  4. Right-Click (or ctrl-click) on the artwork on the left
  5. Pick the Copy item from the menu that pops up
  6. Select all the tracks you want to put this album cover into
  7. Press cmd-i to display Multiple Item Information
  8. Click inside the Artwork Box on the right to highlight it
  9. Press cmd-v to paste the image
  10. Click the OK button

That's it. Basically you are copying the downloaded image to the clipboard and then pasting it into the track information which then gets saved with each selected track. The artwork quality is generally higher than that from Amazon but won't necessarily be high quality than stuff you're carefully scanning yourself.

Believe it or not, I just started using iTunes to manage music this week. Yes, after getting my girlfriend Erin an iPod for her birthday. I'm not new to digital audio by any means, I just haven't found the time/need/desire to really do anything with iTunes before. My normal CD ripping routine was to use Audiograbber on a Windows machine with a high-quality SCSI Plextor CD-ROM and everything was kept on a large hard drive and on my RioCar (empeg). The empeg is the only source of audio in the car and still used on a regular basis. But the whole manual management thing and careful tag management is way too cumbersome to be handled that way. I have CD's stockpiled now that I have yet to rip and encode simply because it was far too much bother to boot up the PC and jump through all the hoops.

So now everything is mostly established on the Mac. Music is kept on an external drive that can be accessed by multiple Macs (set prefs in iTunes plus make an alias to move the library file) and ripping and encoding is being done with Max (w/ LAME encoder). I found this a lot nicer than using iTunes-Lame because Max allows for a number of options to make sure the ripping is done properly (iTunes is pretty far from secure or jitter-free ripping). Max will save tracks into your iTunes library directly and can also grab artwork from Amazon if you'd like. This can then be replaced as I mentioned above, but it's good to have it up front just in case iTunes doesn't have artwork for your CD.

My next adventure will be to set up some type of streaming to replace my currrent in-home DAP routine (which is also to use the empeg connected to my home stereo system). Something to make it easier for others to select music, especially during parties.


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September 20 2006

Bruno Fernandes: Back in the Goog

It took almost a month, but Google is once again showing results pointing directly back to our site, just in time for our content refresh and new releases. I still don't know how/why our results were dropped, but because of the message within the Google Webmaster Central/Tools interface, I have to think someone sent them an ill-informed (or ill-intentioned) complaint about the content on the pages.

When some info finally became available (a week after the site index vanished), Google claimed our pages were in violation of their Quality Guidelines. Looking through their documents I could only come up with one very loose connection, “Avoid hidden text.” I concur with their guidelines wholeheartedly and understand what they're trying to do/protect against. I also understand the spirit of their guidelines and our pages most definitely did not violate them.

Twisted Melon values the choices and requirements of every visitor to this site, so we have tried our hardest to make sure everyone receives the best experience possible. That includes testing in countless browser versions on different platforms as well as the ability to browse without images or in strictly plain text. This last one is notable for those accessing not only from a mobile platform, but more importantly, for visitors with accessibility requirements.

When visiting with a text-based browser or an assistive device (that may read text from the screen aloud), content in the form of graphics would be completely ignored. Text representations for graphics can be included in an alt tag but this only works for graphics that are placed in-line with the html using an img tag. This site uses a lot of Cascading Style Sheet-based (CSS) graphics to preserve a distinction between content and style making this impossible in most cases. To preserve accessibility we have therefore placed plain text in the same places we're using navigational and informational graphics. Within each navigation tab above for example, is its text equivalent. The same applies to the header as a whole, which features the company name and tag line in plain text.

But like most visitors you won't see this text. The reason is it's rendered off the screen. That's done purposefully otherwise the text would float on top of the graphics and make everything just look like a mess. The finesse in this solution comes from the fact that the text is moved off screen by the same CSS that places the graphics. So if you lose the graphics by ignoring the CSS, then you get the plain text in their place. And everyone is happy.

At least we thought. As mentioned, this practice is my best guess as to why we were removed from Google's searchable index for almost a month. Similar techniques have been used by spammers/scammers trying to game search engine results by including terms that were not otherwise prominent on (or even related to) their sites. This text is read as part of the body text by search spiders and these people would stack words to try and increase their search engine rankings. This is NOT what we have been doing. Anyone can take a look at the source to the pages and clearly see the otherwise hidden text for themselves.

TwistedMelon.com is XHTML 1.0 strict compliant, CSS 2.0 compliant and created in such a way as to be accessible by everyone. Yes, there are a couple of IE 6.0 styling issues recently created that need to be fixed. :)


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September 16 2006

Bruno Fernandes: Origin of the species

So what's in a name? Maybe this should be a FAQ item somewhere — at least some additional information for the company profile I suppose.

What is Twisted Melon, what does it mean, how did you come up with it?


Let's attack these in reverse chronological order. I can't take complete credit for the name, which in and of itself is good, because it allows for a little flashback...

2006 January: Twisted Melon was incorporated in Ontario, Canada. Everyone knows only corporations can take over the world. I had to come up with a name for my new software company and I wanted not only something a little funky and offbeat, but also a nice clean .com domain name without dashes. It so happened I was already the owner of TwistedMelon.com... The original.

2000 April: TwistedMelon.com is registered — the plan for world domination is in effect. Originally intended as a fun domain for some freelance design and consulting work, I had been registering a number of domains in the past couple of years and this was one of my favorites. Used as a personal site and as a pointer to the mypocket forums. At this time there was also no one else using the name elsewhere on the web that I knew of (certainly no other domains or companies anywhere in the world).

1999 Fall: “Twisted Melon” conceived as a fun name for freelance work and one initial sketch is made as a possible icon/logo concept.

1990-1999: School, work and a LOT of music listened to and purchased. The phrase “You're twistin' my melon man. You know you talk so hip man, you're twistin' my melon man” permanently etched in my brain.

1990: The Happy Mondays (Manchester, UK 1982-1992) release their third album, Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches featuring the song Step On. The song leads in with the line “You're twistin' my melon man. You know you talk so hip man, you're twistin' my melon man.”

And the reference was likely from...

1965: Steve McQueen (1930-1980) “Are you twisting my melon, man?” (Attributed to McQueen by Norman Jewison on the commentary track of The Cincinnati Kid. Jewison goes on to say “I never knew what he was talking about, he was so hip.”)

In the above context, “twisting my melon” means making my head spin, confusing me, making me crazy, pretty much “are you f***ing with me?” However, the official Twisted Melon take is part of our company info and mentioned in the last blog entry.

Between the time twistedmelon.com was registered and the software company started, a number of other Twisted Melons have cropped up on the net:

Twisted Melon are DJ's from the UK

Twisted Melon is an improv group/production company from Australia

Twisted Melons are an indie band from Scotland (playing since 1995!)

Twisted Melon Records is a record label from the UK

And they all have a couple of things in common. They're all late to the party, need some seriously subjective web make-overs and of course they're all infringing our trademark. Any lawyers in the house? (Suit Alert: that's a joke )


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September 15 2006

Bruno Fernandes: Hints of melon

Because I have nothing better to do (right!), I like to cruise around the interweb looking for people using our software in interesting ways and also to see what people are saying in general. For the past few weeks the site has been making the rounds on a number of web galleries. Seems like every week a new site picks us up, which at the very least, makes me smile. You know, the whole concept of a web site was just an afterthought. I had originally planned to do the software thing door-to-door.

Some of the sites support reader comments and that's where I found this beauty, which is kind of part question and part statement with a hint of uncertainty thrown in:

what does ‘Twisted Melon’ have to do with anything, there isn’t a hint of ‘melon’ on the website, furthermore the logo looks like a light bulb?”

That comment came from a designer. Before I continue let me just take this opportunity to flash some fruit porn for the literally minded.

There, now there's more than a hint of melon — watermemlon, honeydew melon and even a cantaloupe. Like a brick, “in-your-face” style. But wait... Nothing's particularly “twisted” about them. Now I'm stuck.

All of this is firmly tongue-in-cheek. Twisted Melon is the name of the software company, we're not trying to run a fruit market. It has everything to do with creativity and a state of mind. I haven't seen any “adobe” on Adobe's site lately, have you? Directly from our site's “About Us” page:

twisted  adj, slang: Persons, situations or things that are somewhat eccentric.
"Exactly what are you dreaming up in that twisted mind of yours?"
melon  n, slang: a head. "When he fell out of the tree, he landed on his melon."

Even though the name is not born of a literal melon, the site design does include a number of melon-hints just for fun. The whole plant concept for instance is a melon reference, as are the leaves, which are stylized illustrations of a real melon plant leaf. Even the company icon which is part of its logo is a melon with a lightbulb thread. Thread alludes to “twisting” and the whole lightbulb concept to “idea” or “thought.” It's something I came up with (on a napkin of course) about 6-7 years ago. The name itself was thought up over six years ago and the domain registered in the year 2000. Everything's been a long time coming I suppose.

Now I should probably get on with more important work, like finishing some news posts and putting together a whole new section for the site to debut soon. But don't let that stop you from checking out the rest of the site now — you know, don't judge a book by its cover and all that.

You're twistin my melon, man.


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September 11 2006

Bruno Fernandes: Apple predictions

Everyone, their mother and the Pope are making predictions about this Apple event at Yerba Buena tomorrow. It only seems fit that I throw down my 2 cents.

I'm not predicting the order in which these will be unveiled, but I can say with 99% certainty we'll see most of these.

  • Bernie Mac Edition iPod — like the U2 model, only with more Bernie Mac
  • Digital Shoehorn — like a regular shoehorn but with USB
  • iCoast — Bluetooth-enabled drink coaster
  • Disney Movie Store — it will exclusively sell home movies of Walt himself
  • iPod w/GPS for cars — large-screen, dash-mountable, maps & media, controlled by the car's steering wheel (you turn the wheel to navigate the menus)
  • Some random update to the iPod nano (if I don't buy one this month it'll seem like I didn't really get my girlfriend a birthday gift)

I can only imagine the frenzy of blogging, digging and pundit-pounding we'll be swimming through this week. I'm only surprised no one's mentioned the new version of Aperture and new Macbook Pro models coming at Photokina in a couple of weeks. As a final word, here's a message for Steve himself... Be a chum, whip by the Metreon and pick me up a burrito, will ya?


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September 8-10 2006

Bruno Fernandes: Vamos ao norte

It's 10° Celcius outside (50° Fahrenheit), the sky is nothing but gray clouds as far as the eye can see and the waves are rolling in with 1 meter swells (about 3.3 feet) and a significant amount of chop. It's not pouring rain, but it still seems like the perfect time to get some work done — inside.

Martineau Bay on Lake Temiskaming, Ontario, Canada.

I've been “up at the lake” (way up in fact) since Monday afternoon. Erin, my girlfriend, needed some down-time and even though I knew I had a lot of work to do, I sacrificed and joined her for a little break away from the city. After all, her birthday was just this past weekend, right?

 

But where there's a phone line, there's a way! Though I promised to “take it easy” I didn't say this would be a week away from work. The scenery here is natural and raw and as long as you stay out of town, it's simply breathtaking. Temiskaming is about 600 Km (373 miles) North of Toronto, the lake is approximately 100 Km (60 miles) long with depths up to 198 meters (650 feet). The cliff at Devil Rock measures approximately 91 meters (300 feet) above the water line and another 91 below. Where better to do some extreme software testing than in this extreme locale?

 

Le Grande Chute on the Kipawa River, Laniel, Québec, Canada.

Don't get me wrong, the storms haven't been brewing for long, we've had some decent weather over the past few days, and I did get out to enjoy it. A couple of days ago we stopped off at some impressive rapids on the Kipawa River. It took us about 1.5 hours to get to the trail head and another 30 minutes to drive in to park the car, so there was only time for a few photographs before we had to be off to a dinner reservation.

 

The river is the site of the anual Kipawa River Rally, a recreational paddling event for kayakers, canoists and rafters. If it isn't obvious from the pictures, Le Grande Chute is pretty much a waterfall and a section of the river usually portaged around. As described on the Les Amis site, “this two-drop, 30 m waterfall has been considered an unrunable Class VI meatgrinder since paddlers first started running the river...” The area was just too interesting not to be explored, so we made a stop on the way home Sunday afternoon (at the same time making this a multi-day journal entry).

Erin and I both enjoy kayaking, but our outings (and kayaks and gear) are limited to the recreational variety. Looking at the Chute I could only imagine near-certain death for anyone trying to make the descent on any type of craft.

 

I was pretty surprised to find out that a number of (likely insane) people have successfully run those drops. Success is defined as having been able to walk away from the experience. If you look at the picture to the right, you can see me sitting on a rock about 50 meters up river from the main drop of the Chute. If that example of scale just isn't doing it for you, take a look at the pictures of Mike McCubbin, Brent Cooper and Ben Aylsworth actually running it in whitewater kayaks.

 

On the Sunday back at the river, we enjoyed a good two hour hike through a tight wooded trail and over the rocks on the riverbank. There was only one close call where I thought I was headed for a dunk, and yes, it made me a lot more cautious on the way back out.

 

I just started a Flickr account to host some of the full resolution images instead of serving them directly from the company site, so there should be a few other images online soon from this set. We have bandwidth to burn, but Flickr is what all the cool kids are doing right now. Plus they already have a commenting system and other features in place.

 

Drop us an email if you can come up with a plugin for Mira to allow controlling the weather. ;)


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September 2 2006

Bruno Fernandes: She made me do it

Guess where I was this morning? If you said “in bed” you'd be wrong (that's probably were I would have preferred to be :) Instead I was one of the first 1000 people to visit the newest Apple Store.

The Sherway Gardens location places Toronto along-side Los Angeles as the only two cities with three stores. I'm not a fortune teller, but I suspect Toronto may eventually get a fourth store with a fifth in a nearby suburb. With a static population of at least 6 million, including the suburbs on the edges of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), I believe this is a unique landscape, having always been an leading area in connectivity coupled with a higher than average concentration of Mac users.

So I went, I saw and I got the T-Shirt. It was my first store opening event of any kind. Line-ups aren't what I'd consider a fun time and I know how busy an Apple Store can be on any regular day. But this day was a little different and unusual, so it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

 

The plan had been to pick up an iPod nano along with the Nike+iPod sport kit for my girlfriend's birthday, which falls on... September 2nd. Surfing the Apple Store online the other day, prior to ordering, I discovered this store would be opening so I decided to wrap the whole thing in a store visit. We arrived at exactly 9:30 am and promptly added to the growing line outside the shopping center. At this point she still had no clue what we were doing there.

Of course the store surprise didn't last too long because others in line just couldn't stop chatting about things like upgrading memory in their minis or how Apple was late in upgrading their portables. We still had fun people-watching though as there's never a shortage of colorful characters. Literally (though I only saw one bright red hairdo today).

When we left the store she still didn't know what I had purchased. And in a couple of weeks when I actually buy her the iPod, she'll be able to use that shiny new Nike+iPod kit too. Being pragmatic, I wasn't going to get the actual nano when we may be just a couple of weeks away from a significant iPod announcement. ;)

The rest of the birthday celebration isn't a suitable topic for the general readership..


« | August 2006

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August 25 2006

Bruno Fernandes: Google hates us me

Perhaps I should have known better... Better than to write what I was really thinking on the net. I've heard the spiders are out there listening, watching, reading. Taking notes, names and now, apparently kicking ass.

Our ass it seems. Try it now for yourself. Check Google to see if we come up on any matches for twisted melon or even twisted melon apple remote. Nope, not since yesterday afternoon. There hasn't been a single visitor to the site linked directly from Google in 24 hours. Prior to that there was at least one every few minutes and visitors even showed up with such oddball searches as easy twisted facts for kids.

So what's wrong? What happened? Your guess is really as good as ours. Apparently Google themselves have no idea, their FAQs on the subject filled with so much gibberish you'd think they had monkeys actually writing all the code. What kind of database do they keep where they don't know how or why things suddenly vanish? Until two weeks ago Google had a couple of my older pages archived and I had to manually purge them by jumping through some hoops. These are nonexistent pages that pointed to a server that has not been running for at least a year. So you can't get them to get rid of stuff that doesn't exist and you can't get them to keep stuff that does. Oh boy...

Maybe I should watch this free expression of concern and criticism. This may be what got the site into hot water in the first place. The night before last, I made a post somewhere else about how I had just switched to using Mint for site statistics and was just about to give Google Analytics the farewell boot. In the same post I slipped in a couple of comments describing what I thought of the Google Adwords program (don't bother searching for it, I'll summarize: it's a scam). So as I put on my tin-foil hat, could this be more than just a coincidence?

Google, please don't say it's so! I still love you, really. At least the curvy sexy search part of you. So what if I don't like your bulky unfriendly analytics nor your bank-account draining adwords. Please give me another chance. I know we can still play with image archives together and a good scan over your usenet groups can still be fun. If you promise not to take over the world, so will I. Gooooogle!


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August 24 2006

Bruno Fernandes: Too hot to handle

Anyone hitting the news on the interweb has probably caught mention of the recent Apple battery recall affecting a reported 1.8 million units. I narrowly escaped the last recall in 2004, but no such luck this time. The pack on my PowerBook G4 falls right in the middle of the first newly recalled range. What have I got to say about this?

Thanks SONY!

I wonder if there has ever been a recall on cube-shaped Sony Dream Machine clock radios. It's one of the few Sony products I own and it's definitely been showing its craptastic faults since shortly after it was bought.

Back to these smoking-hot batteries... I don't generally leave the PowerBook sitting on my bed nor flame-inviting sofas, but it does spend many nights on the coffee table, dining room table or on a bed-side shelf. Usually plugged in and always with the battery installed. I'll knock on wood right now (which two of the previously mentioned surfaces are made of) that I haven't had any problems. The battery definitely gets very warm, but it's absolutely frigid in comparison to the temperature of various other parts of the computer. There's no way to keep the PowerBook on your lap for instance — not unless you want a skin graft later in the day.

I'm glad Apple is doing the right thing here with such a far-reaching recall. Sure, perhaps less than 10 people have voiced complaints according to the recall, but it would sure suck to be the 10th and left with potentially disastrous property loss.

The opportunity to visit Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) site also enabled me to find out my Black & Decker CMM1000 battery-powered cordless lawn mower is also the subject of a recall. Great.

I suppose both of these are just mild icing on the cake for the week. On the weekend I discovered the hot water heater/tank in the house was leaking. Of course I found this out because water had leaked under the maple laminate flooring I installed in the adjoining room, causing it to swell and warp. Yes, fun times.


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August 23 2006

Bruno Fernandes: There's no need to stop

I wonder when we'll get the time to convert this static site (and manually updated news/blog) to a nice managed system like Joomla, don't you? I'm getting jealous of all that tagging everyone else has going on in their fancy WordPress templated sites. ;)

I also wouldn't mind putting in some neat little playlist/music/interest features too. I listen to a lot of music and it's streaming from an MP3 player 99% of the time, so it wouldn't be too difficult to hook something up real-time. Plus even if gets some of these bands an extra sale or exposure here or there, all the better. I get scared when I start to see artists I like get dropped from US distribution.

My favorite band, The Charlatans had this happen not too long ago. Thankfully something was worked out with a new label and it hasn't beeen difficult to buy their albums in Canada. Though I did pay a hefty $30 for the last one, Simpatico, after tax. That's what you get for an impulse purchase in the suburbs from HMV.

Sadly I'm also behind in ripping/encoding by about 20 albums right now, so today it's old-school CD spinning. Give them a listen. I'm still “getting into” this new album and will save a better and more rounded music-related entry for another time.


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August 22 2006

Bruno Fernandes: Is no news really good news?

I didn't promise to make this a “daily” blog did I? Ok, that's good. I've been so wrapped up with work lately that my sharp focus has left me with little more to think about than the tasks on my to-do lists.

We're wrapping up Mira 1.2 which I would have liked to have in your hands early last week. Hopefully the extra quality is worth the wait. Most of the web content has been updated and currently sits on my local machine waiting to be pushed live. The same goes for the built-in help files which, let me tell you, aren't so fun to keep up to date.

I'm glad everyone seems to be getting along with the software — at least that's what I'm taking from the slow-down in help/support requests. Like I've said before though, we still love receiving mail from customers.

The unfortunate development in the past two weeks has been a significant ramp in SPAM. It's to be extpected because there are currently multiple email addresses listed in plain-text right on the site. They'll have to be replaced with an online form soon to prevent automated address harvesting. You'll still get a real reply from a real email address when you write of course, and your replies can all be done in email too.

Most of the SPAM this past week seems to be in Japanese, which likely has something to do with a recent listing in a Japanese web gallery. So far however, I can't tell if they're trying to get into our PayPal account, selling prescription drugs or just peddling p0rn.


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August 10 2006

Bruno Fernandes: Burrito of the Union

That extra-long weekend was just the perfect amount of time off and even though I didn't have any down-time for reading, the great outdoors did provide some fun and relaxation. There was even a bit of excitement thrown into the mix with a mid-day water rescue (I had to rescue a couple of friends who were stranded with a canoe due to changing weather, wind and a lot of waves). And of course there's nothing like a couple of severe thunderstorms while on a kayak trip in the middle of nowhere. Fun times all around. Really.

The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) wraps up tomorrow and it got me thinking about the fun times I've had out in San Francisco. For years I was practically a fixture at ATI's Macworld booth, but this year that wasn't the case for obvious reasons. Since the business is relatively young and operations are in bootstrap-mode, I just couldn't justify taking time off to attend WWDC. Being able to expense stuff like that while working for a larger corporate entity ("The Man") was obviously a sweet perk.

After the first trip it became second nature traveling around San Francisco. With only small changes here and there, including where I stayed, everything else stayed pretty much the same. I've done a bunch of the tourist stuff like visit Alcatraz, ride the cable cars and smell the sea lion stench down by the docks. Some places were visited each time I was in town, one of those was the Metreon next to Yerba Buena Gardens. It was always on the way to the Moscone from whichever hotel was “it” that year, but most of all, it's where the two-fisted burrito lived.

Si, delicious burritos from Luna Azul, what looks like any little food-court joint in some forgotten shopping mall. Ok, I can see you asking “Luna Azul?” Yes. I've had Tex-Mex and “Mexican” in countless places in Canada, the US and of course Mexico. So many claiming to be “authentic” and a few claiming simply to be good. Many weren't. This little place in the Metreon didn't pretend to be anything it wasn't. They were just selling an alternative to the BBQ chicken, pizza and pasta you could pick up next door. But I liked the burritos so much (chicken, beef or chicken and beef), that I'd often joke it was the only reason I was going on the trip. It didn't end there. They serve some tasty fresh nacho chips and some of the best salsa I have ever sampled. Ok, now my mouth is watering (and I just ate 30 minutes ago).

Does anyone know if Luna Azul make their own salsa on-site? Or if it's a commercial product? I'd love to get my hands on a tub of it, but I'd probably settle for a jar/bottle. It slipped my mind last week to ask a couple of people to consider packing a burrito away in their carry-on baggage for their return trip (or maybe subconsciously I just didn't trust them not to eat it).


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August 4 2006

Bruno Fernandes: Can I write this before my battery reaches 0% ?

It's the second long-weekend of the Summer in Canada, the civic holiday (first weekend in August) and I'll be driving for about 5 hours in the morning to spend the weekend on the shores of Lake Temiskaming.

I probably won't be answering any emails this weekend and I've already promised a few people I'll try to stay off the PowerBook while sitting on the dock. I need some relax time and it'll give me the chance to catch up on some reading anyway. Yes, I still read some stuff that's printed on paper. I'll get back to answering questions on Tuesday morning, so hang tight.


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August 1 2006

Bruno Fernandes: It's “volcano” hot today

For the second day in a row it's baking outside, which is probably great if you want to make cookies on the hood of your car or fry eggs on the sidewalk as so many people are fond of doing. But if you're trying to keep an office cool, it's non-stop running of the air conditioner and the wonderful electrical bills it brings.

 

We're working on a number of significant new featuers for the next point version of Mira (1.2) and I thought I'd post a little teaser image. The icon selection and text in the image are just a random sampling, not any specific menu.

The upcoming version will also ship with a number of high quality matched-style icons — it will probably include two different sets in fact. Putting 2 and 2 together you can probably see where this is going.

 

You can see three sample icons below which will make their way into the built-in sets. The icons/images are all done in-house and the largest set is already up to over 160 icons. Mira won't include all of them, but a sub-set that makes sense for the way they'll be used.

I'm considering putting up the bulk of the sets for sale, packaged in different formats and sizes for royalty-free use on the web or for personal use. A few Twisted Melon original desktop images should also be online soon as freebies (I'm not talking about logo-ridden promotional stuff either, but real usable day to day desktop images).


« | July 2006

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July 29 2006

Bruno Fernandes: Listen up, I'm calling you out

Maybe it's the especially warm and beautiful weather or maybe it's the wine talking, but I have to dedicate some love to our customers — and customers-to-be of course. You're a great bunch, this I can tell in the short span we've “known” each other.

Like the next publisher, sales are absolutely always welcome, but the correspondence and comments we've received have been a joy to read and respond to. We made an early pledge to try and return all support inquiries within 48 hours, but most of you know that's been closer to under an hour lately. I can't say that will always be the case, but it's truly been great answering all the questions.

As I've mentioned before, we're not just here putting out software, we're full-service. Customer support is absolutely free, always. So don't be shy if you have a question you'd like answered. Even if we've heard it a hundred times before, we're more than glad to read your mail. Though we do keep a FAQ as well. ;)

This web site, our forum and of course communication directly from Twisted Melon staff are where you will get the most timely and accurate information about our software. There will be a lot of information posted out on the net and for whatever reason it may not always be correct. Checking with us will always get you the full scoop.


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July 28 2006

Bruno Fernandes: Take it easy, don't rush, watch your step

I can still hear them now, "Dont run by the pool!" or "Be careful, you'll fall!" But I didn't listen. Did you? Childhood was all about doing things your own way. Or at least trying to until someone noticed enough to give you a smack-down. But those early years were fundamental in learning risk assessment, knowing how far you could push something before it breaks (or hurts).

As an adult I still do things my own way, but there are still enough cautious-Marys around telling you you're wrong. With the experience gained from childhood abandon you'd think life would be pretty smooth right? Yeah, right.

You set yourself up with a fairly aggressive schedule and pull long hours to get everything just right. You cross your "t's," dot your "i's" and give everything a good bit of spit and polish. Wow, that looks great! So now you gather up your widget, carefully under arm and run like the wind to deliver it.

Oh oh... You missed that crack in the sidewalk. Now you're flying through the air, widget somewhere above you and a second later you're lying on your face with pieces of broken widget pie all around you. "We told you so..." You can hear it echoing in your head.

So what's the moral of the story? Go fast, but don't rush. Push the limits, but don't snap. Build great software, but don't put incorrectly built or corrupt packages up for download.

The Mira download is fixed folks, sorry for the inconvenience last night.


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July 28 2006

Bruno Fernandes: In the wee hours we blog

I should really be in bed, and probably would be if I hadn't remembered that I needed to make a post here about the new Mira release. It went live last night, shortly after 8pm, and includes updates to the issues mentioned earlier (more active profiles in trial mode, stuck CMD key and new uninstalltion).

Check the News Page for details on the release.

We could really use some help to get the word out. We've had some good links from a number of sites, but there's a huge number of people out there that still don't know about mira. We think it's the best upgrade you can add to a Mac with a remote and we want to make sure it continues to be, so keep your feedback coming and help spread the news.

One way you can let everyone know you use Mira is to add it to your profile over at iUseThis.comit's a great new site for tracking the applications you use and sharing that information with others. It's also a great way to find out about new software from others with similar tastes.


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July 27 2006

Bruno Fernandes: She's almost ready

Bringing the changes I've previously mentioned in the blog and on the forum, mira version 1.1.5 will be making its debut shortly.

How shortly? Maybe later today in fact. Now let me get back to testing.


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July 25 2006

Bruno Fernandes: I must be new

How we all loved using the phrase "Are you new?" or "He's new" to co-workers and especially interns who'd already been on the job for half the year. But now it's seems like I've made one of those innocent oversights by forgetting to update/upgrade the defaults included with Mira 1.1

Specifically, we only pre-added Front Row to the Launch Menu (you can add more applications of your own of course). And we left the initial trial limits at three active application profiles. Still enough to do some testing, but what's the real issue you ask? Front Row isn't in the first three items in the profile list. That means it's not enabled by default. Oops!

So if anyone has noticed that Front Row exits as soon as they press any remote button, it's because you're in fact using the Global Profile. Front Row, like any application profile, needs to be enabled to use its own settings. For now, just turn on the check-box next to the Front Row profile in the Mira Buttons Tab. We will release a small update that will change the default active profiles, add more entries into the starter Launch Menu list as well as increase the number of active items you can use during the trial/evaluation period.

Hopefully we haven't scared you away from Mira with this really newbie oversight. Please give the update a spin when it's available.


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July 24 2006

Bruno Fernandes: Every silver cloud has a black lining

Or at least a black drop shadow (unless they aren't in style anymore). No matter how hard you try, some little issue will always slip through the cracks. That's true in life, let alone software development.

If you look to the right at our sidebar, there's a news item about Uninstalling mira. Some people didn't know how to do it and some others unfortunately couldn't get it to work. So the first issue is easy, you can ask us and we'll send you a nice reply, or you can click the Help button right in Mira for the answer or now you can also read the new FAQ entry.

The second part isn't as easy (for us). You don't want to know how many times Mira has been installed and uninstalled on the machines here in the office. It's even had its turn on currently unsupported machines just to make sure everything would run smoothly.

But the solution to the second problem (for now) is also to ask us and we can guide you through it, or check out the new FAQ entry for manually uninstalling. The short answer of course is to just delete the "mira.prefpane" from "/Library/PreferencePanes" and then restart the computer. In the FAQ we also detail every file Mira uses just so you know your system is 100% clean and the way it was before installing.

We're working to try and find out why the uninstall doesn't work for some people. So please, if you have uninstall issues, or any issues with the program for that matter, contact us. As I've said before, we're accountable to you, our customers. And that includes everyone still in the pre-sales phase — we'll convince you that buying from Twisted Melon is always money well spent.


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July 23 2006

Bruno Fernandes: All work and no play...

I've been busy. More than a little busy in fact. There was of course the update for mira, which I've already said seems to be "light" from a customer perspective but includes a lot of changes internally and then of course some of the other projects we're working on. Unfortunately I can't say anything about them (they're cool) nor when they'll be released (as soon as we can) - I can even say what platform they're for (the Mac of course). ;)

What's "busy" you ask? Getting up and starting to work just after 9am and stopping sometime after 2am. Every day. These long hours have left my mind a bit single-tracked for the past two weeks and far too analytically-oriented to get to any blog posts.

It's good to see Google finally updated its cached copies of the site and that links as well as other pages mentioning Mira have also started getting picked up. But most impressive was the response we received on digg.com. For that I'd like to send out a big...

Thank You!

Now just get ready to do it again when we update to the next version.


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July 7 2006

Bruno Fernandes: It's back to non-stop action

I just (yesterday) returned from my first “vacation” in a long time. In quotes because I was away for only 5 days, two of which were part of the weekend, and one of which was a national holiday (Happy belated Canada Day - and Independence Day to those in the US). My PowerBook came along for the trip, but to everyone's surprise (mine included), I only cracked it open a couple of times to take down some notes and unload some photos.

Getting away from work for a few days was nice, though neither the body nor the mind got much rest. We did some lake-side lounging, a bit of reading, a lot of grilling and eating (and even more drinking), but also a lot of thinking. And what did I think about? Work of course.

A few days were spent at a friend's cottage, on a lake not too far from Kingston Ontario, and for two nights and three days we stayed in the small town of Gananoque at the excellent Sleepy Hollow B&B. Gananoque is also in Ontario, on the shores of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, at the egde of the “Thousand Islands” area. This short trip brought the first opportunity this season to get out on the water kayaking. Cottage lakes and rivers provide some scenic paddling, but spending an entire day in the Thousand Islands was definitely the highlight. When else (or where else?) can you cross back and forth over the Canadian-US border a couple of dozen times in one afternoon without looking at a blank horizon? My most important lesson from this trip: never again race (across and in front of) a ferry boat while paddling a kayak. No accidents and no injuries, just a bit too much energy/sweat expended (on the paddling, panic and swearing).

A clear mind doesn't stay that way for long, which for me is a good thing. The time away gave me the opportunity to figure out some of the things I have planning for a while now and even improve on some of those plans. Now that I'm back in the office it's time to get everything back in motion. A quick update/release of Mira will kick things off and should be up within two weeks, with two additional updates being scheduled for the weeks following. The first update is rather minor from a usability perspective, but I promise that the work being done will be well worth it and very evident in the following two updates.


« | June 2006

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June 26 2006

Bruno Fernandes : On browsers and rendering

If there's anything anyone involved with web design hates, I'm sure like me, it's incompatible browser nuances (to put it mildly). Where one browser zigs, often another zags, leaving your cleverly crafted pages possibly looking like something out of a Picasso collection. Great for modern art, not so great for web usability.

I'm no markup expert, in fact I just get by — these pages are built with a bunch of CSS, but still required a bit of table duct-tape to hold together. I guess I just didn't have the melon for the rest of the CSS to get to the table-free stage. Without CSS this design would only be possible using massive amounts of fixed graphics and other really ugly kludges, but unfortunately, styling is also where some browsers lose their points. Incidentally, this site currently validates as XHTML 1.1 Strict and gets close enough to CSS validation for my liking (using W3C validators).

In primary development I did all the preview work using Camino (my default browser) and Safari, which is far and away the most popular browser for Mac OS. For this reason it's also the most important platform for us and all new styles get tested right away in it (usually producing expected results). Some slight tweaking was necessary to get everything looking the same between the Mozilla-based browsers (like Camino and Firefox) and Safari, but all in all it was painless enough to have been forgotten already. Once things began shaping up in the layout department, IE6 in Windows was given a go. That browser still commands a significant market share and I'd like visitors to be able to see the site whether they're on their own computers or surfing from an internet café on the other side of the world.

Let the problems begin. IE6 doesn't support transparency (alpha channel) in 32bit PNG images, but searching found a nice IE-specific work-around for PNG image loading. Unfortunately it's not suitable for background images, which make up 90+% of the graphics use on this site. So the images had to be flattened and carefully trimmed/puzzled together omitting transparency in most cases. The few places where this would have compromised the design goals, a linked img was reluctantly used.

But what about the style? Yeah, I'm getting there. No fixed positioning of items means a really horrible mess was made of the page because of the little sticky corner label (top left). More research and problem worked around. But what's this? Why do the fonts look off? On the Mac you'll see most text rendered using Lucida Grande and some text using Trebuchet MS, but Windows systems lack Lucida by default, so Trebuchet gets used a lot more. But that's not the problem. The text's x-height (the height of the body of lowercase letters like the x) are rendered smaller in proportion to the CAPS height in comparison to the same font on the Mac. If that weren't enough, you should see what happens when you use an even size (like 12 or 14 pixels) in IE6 — font height remains relatively the same but letter spacing changes!

These differences in IE6 made it mandatory to specify some alternate styles to patch up some of its rendering deficiencies. Luckily the IE developers knew they were creating something not generally compatible and implemented some more IE-specific parsing allowing a special comment block that only IE sees. In here we load the PNG work-around and a small substitute stylesheet, without using any Javascript or providing any content that may affect other browsers.

IE5 for Mac OS you ask? Fuggedaboudit says I. The issues with the pages are known, but it will take someone who actually knows something about CSS to work around them (rather than someone faking it like me). I've more recently also tested the site with Firefox, Opera, OmniWeb, Shiira and iCab (which for some reason insists on having a top margin which shifts the page content down, breaking the background illusion).

I <heart> Web browsers.


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June 22 2006

Bruno Fernandes : Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet

Ah, the sound of a beautiful Latin placeholder, darling of the typographic world & not just a smooth lyric in Bran Van 3000's "More Shopping."

We're a couple of weeks past our ipsum days, but it all still seems so private. So temporary and fleeting. Though with Google and other archivers around there's always some sense of permanence, if not for design work, then at least for the text that fills the pages. In our case, Google has decided to take a snapshot of a temporary nonsensical experiment with the Joomla CMS on our front page. Unfortunately this "unpublished" site doesn't even rank in the top three results for "Twisted Melon," despite having the most accurate and long-lived domain name. :)

We've just started down the road to changing those results by pushing all the current content live onto the root (front page) of the site. We'll be making a lot of edits and changes over the weeks, including the move to CMS and integrated cart I previously mentioned. Full forum integration will also fill things out. But for now, our simple click-to-buy link works, we've got a small database set up to keep everything tidy and some large amounts of bandwidth to burn.

So come on, help us spread the news. It's not like there's anything on TV tonight anyway. Just some lorem ipsum placeholder shows and reruns waiting around for the fall.


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June 13 2006

Bruno Fernandes : Who’s your daddy? Boss?

As anyone who’s ever been “self-employed” knows, you rarely if ever work for yourself. That would better be described as “unemployed.”

Twisted Melon was officially founded in January 2006 – that’s the date on the articles of incorporation, you know? I’ve been kicking around with the domain since early 2000 and just recently decided to leave the corporate world and do my own thing. Though I’m the President and CTO (who needs a CEO anyway?) I still have a boss.  In fact I have many - more than ever before. That’s because first and foremost I work for you. I also work for my employees, and let me say, the lot of you keep me extremely busy and always on my toes. It’s true, there’s no one looking over my shoulder to see if I punch in on time or keeping tabs on what time I shut the office down, but there are always plenty of people expecting something from you, looking for solutions, looking for advice and sometimes making demands. And that’s the way I like it.

If I wanted to keep my head down in a relatively cushy job with above average security, I would have stayed where I was. Expectations were easy to surpass without breaking much of a sweat.  Everyone’s expectations other than my own that is. Working for a company with a retail and consumer presence, one couldn’t help but want to make an impact on the customers that mattered the most.  Joe and Jane public. But you can only affect so much movement when you’re encumbered by the trappings of a large corporate entity.

For almost 10 years I was with ATI Technologies, a little graphics chip maker maybe some of you have heard of. It's difficult to remember everything I did there, but I do know that I started out as one of the first rather lowly Mac quality assurance engineers. Time passes and throughout, amongst a lot of jumping around, role shifting, confusion and a little hard-headedness, I had dabbled as a product marketing manager, public relations puppet, product/corporate evangelist, marketing communications manager, graphic artist, software designer, event planner, technical publications writer, trade show specialist, event technician, IT specialist, beta test coordinator/web guy and when I left, my official title was Project Coordinator (they had stopped using the Manager title in engineering at that time for mastery of non-human subjects). For some reason they didn’t offer the title “Jack of All Trades” on our business cards.

So now here we are in 2006. Some pennies saved along the way to make this move and almost as many spent to get this far. So what’s changed? I covered it a couple of paragraphs ago - I’m working for a new boss - a much more demanding one with a thousand personalities and an endless array of performance metrics and tastes. I’ve added a few more job functions to my list for this venture: interior designer, carpenter, electrician, builder and flooring installer. So I’m extremely thankful my talented brother handled all the painting requirements. But now I have the chance to settle in and focus on a much more specific job function. I’ll be getting back to the company’s software design, engineering, graphics, PR, marketing and network administration. Chances are if you write to us, I may just get the first few support emails too. :)  Until next time, boss.


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June 12 2006

Bruno Fernandes : You read right.  Right as rain. PRE-BLOG.

See, I’m taking a few moments out from doing small stuff like finishing up software and putting up this web site to get a feel for this whole blogging thing.

Only a handful of people even know the test address for the site you’re reading now – and I can’t really say exactly what’s changed since the day this is being written and the day you’re sitting there reading it [wonders to self: “Self? Is anyone reading this?”] We’re in a mad rush to get our first product, mira, out the door. We took a bit of time in the middle of a larger project to work on this little gem.  Of course there was that nagging little problem sticking its nose in the way: we didn’t have a company web site yet to host our own content!

So over the past few weeks I’ve managed to come up with a design, create all the original illustration and graphics and put my novice XHTML and CSS skills to the test cobbling it all together. Good thing I practiced on the Mira help book a little first.  Back to the rushing business… Even though I’m splitting myself 6 ways from Sunday, I just don’t have the patience, actually time, to figure out the wonderful Joomla content management system (CMS) to wire all this work together in a beautiful dynamically generated template-powered fashion. It’s all old-school manual labor and FTP transfers to get the goodness out to you. Just take a look at this blog page – I’m even adding these posts manually.  No fancy WordPress or Movable Type shenanigans here. But it’s all coming. If I value my sanity (really I do), it has to happen. A proper shopping cart isn’t just a frill after all.

It’s back to some hard work – pushing for the date of posting my first real “live” blog entry so I can stop queuing these things up.


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June 9 2006

Bruno Fernandes :  PreBlog. Pre. Blog. Blog? Hmmm…

I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that word. This is it, officially my first blog posting. Believe it or not, I’m not talking about this site, but in general and as a whole. I’ve never made a “blog” post before.

I’ve probably written enough over the years on the net to fill a couple of encyclopedia volumes.  Do people still know what those are or am I dating myself? I’ve been posting on the internet since 1990 but always with a specific audience, or rather recipient, intended for any given message.  There was email, there was a lot of usenet and of course countless forums (many of which are long forgotten). But I can’t say any have been of the self-indulgent nature that practically defines many modern weblogs. Electronic journals and diaries have been around long since before the web (despite what some wikipedia contributors claim). Even the archaic .plan file served as an early soap box for early netizens. But over the past three years “blogging” has really hit the mainstream. And even big business – some blog sites rival traditional news sites for traffic (some blog sites are the only news some people read!)

But the relatively new term is already expanding in definition simply by virtue of its use and perhaps misappropriation. In either case, I don’t think it’s going away. This little slice of ether sitting in the quiet corner of Twisted Melon should keep to a more traditional approach, that of a journal, rather than a media outlet. And I promise to try and keep away any mad Canadian rants.

As a parting thought, let me leave you with this.  I’ve never considered myself any type of journalist and don’t tend to hold my writing ability in extremely high regard. And I’ve already started more than a couple of sentences with “and” and “but.” But that’s the way I like it.


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News

MacOS Mojave Settings

To make sure Mira continues to properly control your apps in MacOS 10.14, you might need to manually grant it permission inside the Accessibility section of System & Privacy Preferences.
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New Mira Release 1.5.2

New & revised DuoPress actions, new Apple Developer signatures, installer revisions.
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Now Shipping

New Mira version, new mini IR receiver, USB-C adapter.
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